A How-to Guide for Prioritizing Your Needs
November 12, 2020
Northern Nevada Medical Group’s Medical Director Amanda Magrini, MD, shares advice about staying healthy in body, mind and spirit.
Here you have it, brilliant, stressed, busy moms out there who are trying to juggle it all. Right now, we are tackling homeschool with our kids or sending them off in the midst of a pandemic, managing a household, work, being a spouse and more. So, what does that mean for self-care? Oftentimes it goes by the wayside.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear in my clinic, “Sorry I haven’t been to see you in a while, I have been busy taking care of everyone else.” While I am concerned about the direct impact this can have on my patients’ physical health, I am also worried about the mental health implications that lack of self-care can have — particularly in high-stress times.
Despite the challenges or inability to prioritize our own self-care, there are a few easy options for restoring your total body health.
Schedule Self-Care and Don’t Overbook
This is where you get started. Whether you are a planner or not, having a routine is one way to achieve a goal of regular self-care. It’s as easy as putting an hour or two a week in your calendar, or opt for a daily 20 minutes — or more if you have it. Think of it as a meeting, but with yourself! Of course, you can include your bestie or kids, but truly, this is your time to decompress and have a moment.
Self-care is our best weapon against mental health issues, so do not hesitate to make this a priority. You are valuable and deserve the time off. And once you establish a routine, the rest of your household won’t think twice when mom is off to have some “me, myself and I” time of their own.
Annual Wellness – Don’t Take a Pass
This is the cornerstone of primary care for providers and a simple way to manage self-care from a medical perspective. There are so many things we want to talk to you about when you come in to see us, and having a visit dedicated to focusing on just what we need to do as a team to keep you healthy is vital.
As a physician, I take advantage of wellness check-ins anytime I see someone who is generally healthy. The odds are I won’t get to see you again until there is another problem, but having the time to focus on your family history and personal risk factors is ideal.
We also get an opportunity to connect about your overall health and this is where having a relationship with a provider is valuable — you get one-on-one time to invest in yourself. Now’s the time to ask questions, be honest about how you’ve been feeling and let your provider guide your path to wellness.
Check out this read on adult preventive health recommendations, which is a comprehensive list of screenings and adult health guidelines. These recommendations change regularly, which is why it is a good idea to see your provider every year.
Exercise Regularly – Consistency Is Key
I know you hear it time and again, but I can’t tell you how important this step is for many reasons. I use this method of self-care and have trained myself to make exercise a priority. With certainty, I can say the mornings that I don’t get up and get even a 20-minute workout in before work, I can tell a huge difference in the way I feel, physically and mentally.
To be honest, it is less to do with the type of workout you choose but that you do something consistently. If walking is what you can commit to, then go for it, and aim for at least 20 minutes each day. This can be a perfect way to get some alone time, clear your head and refresh for what’s ahead. The best part about exercise is there are known physical benefits including:
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of some cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, stomach, kidney and lung
- Better attention and mental processing, and lower risk of developing dementia
- When pregnant, lower risk of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes and postpartum depression
I am spending a lot of time talking about the physical benefits of exercise as self-care, but there are incredible mental health benefits as well. Many studies, including this one, have shown with exercise, one has a better ability to deal with stress and overall better mental health.
So where do you start on your journey to daily self-care and exercise? Make it a goal to get 2.5 to 5 hours a week of physical activity. This doesn’t have to be going to the gym, it can include walking, playing tag with your kids, a sweaty yoga session or frequenting the tennis court for a quick match. Get creative and find something that works for you.
Tap Into Your Social Butterfly
I am not talking about social media. As humans, we are social creatures, and not having regular social interaction is very negative to our emotional and mental health. Layer on COVID-19 and social distancing requirements and some of you may want to give up and become antisocial. Please don’t — it’s detrimental to your self-care and ability to manage during a global pandemic.
It may seem easy to pick the perceived simpler route, but there are ways you can stay social and safe. While we have the advantage of beautiful fall weather, meet at a local park and enjoy a cup of coffee or go for a stroll around the Sparks Marina with the kids on bikes while you chat with your friend (masks recommended). Even Zoom happy-hours can be a fun way to interact safely and get those much-needed self-care hours in, while catching up with the people who are most important to you. And while social media can have its drawbacks, there are endless opportunities within to link you to nearby, like-minded moms to help expand your social circles.
The Sleep Zone: Take Advantage of Quiet Time
I know the temptation is to stay up a little later to get the laundry done, or do a little work after the kids have gone to sleep. Technically, these things should not count as self-care. Self-care should be genuine time you invest in making yourself happier and healthier.
Make a routine to calm your mind and unwind, such as meditation, reading a book or listening to a calming podcast. All these things should have low to moderate stimulus, nothing intense. We don’t want you binge-watching "Emily in Paris" and ending up wide awake ready to plan a Parisian escapade — though an overseas trip sounds fabulous!
Get seven to eight hours of serious sleep so you can feel refreshed and alert each morning. By default, you are setting a great example for your family by making this a priority. Their health will benefit knowing that rest is crucial to a healthy body and mind, not to mention a happy mom and spouse.
What you gain from good sleep is significantly reduced risk of anxiety or depression and a reduction in other chronic medical conditions.
It can definitely be tempting to cancel self-care time because you are “too busy,” but trust me on this one: You will be a better mother, spouse, employee and person if you make sure this is one appointment on your schedule that doesn’t get canceled. Making time for yourself is of utmost importance, so do not feel selfish doing so. We all need the downtime to heal our minds and bodies.